Nearby universities also have been adapting to the changing demands of a growing marketplace.
The school’s nursing program started due to highly trained nurses, in high demand.
Phyllis Wolfe McDonough knew she could elevate her work as a nurse practitioner with a doctorate, but it took a postcard from a Pennsylvania university she had never heard of in 2007 for her to begin her long-distance journey.
Today the 66-year-old Long Island woman, who flew to Pittsburgh six times in two years to study at Robert Morris University’s Moon campus, is among dozens of nurse practitioners who have graduated from the university’s distance-learning doctoral program.
The nation’s growing demand for nurses and the increased earning potential for nurses with advanced educations nurse practitioners earn median salaries of $90,000 a year with master’s degrees are fueling a boom in applications at some Western Pennsylvania nursing schools.
Enrollment in RMU’s nursing and health sciences program, which began with 18 students in 2003, grew to 793 this year. On Friday, RMU officials broke ground on a $12 million, 30,000-square-foot facility to house the program that now offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs, including wholly online degree and certificate programs.
The School of Nursing and Health Sciences has been one of the great success stories in RMU’s recent history. In a relatively short period of time, the school has established itself as a leader in health care education and medical simulation, clinical research and community service on a global scale, RMU President Gregory G. Dell’Omo said.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the nation will need 1.1 million more nurses by 2020 to meet the demands of an aging population. In Allegheny County, where there are about 19,500 registered nursing jobs, the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board estimates there are about 630 new openings for nurses a year. Demand is expected to grow 12 percent in the next decade.
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